Mother duck sitting with ducklings

Birth at Home

Homebirth can be a controversial topic for some people and there are many who have concerns about the safety of planned birth at home, but actually there are a number of recent studies in favour of giving birth at home . This research found that birthing at home is a safe option for women with a low-risk pregnancy and this article found that people who birth at home are less likely to experience medical intervention.

The Australian College of Midwives has published a position statement in support of planned birth at home with a registered midwife. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists acknowledges home birth as an option but emphasises planned hospital birth as safer. 

If you are considering birthing at home, you may have a public hospital nearby that provides a homebirth service through their Midwifery Group Practice (MGP) program, or there may be a local private practising midwife. Despite the low number of women who birth at home, both of these models of care are in high demand, so it is a good idea to contact your preferred care provider soon after you find out that you are pregnant.

Sometimes neither of these options are available. In this situation, some women choose to temporarily move closer to an available care provider, or they may be able to find a private midwife willing to travel further under special circumstances.  

If you choose homebirth through the public system, this will likely be through the the hospital’s midwifery group practice program (MGP) and your costs will be kept to a minimum compared to hiring a private midwife. This may suit some families better. However, the flexibility of birth at home through MGP is generally more restricted compared to care with a private midwife. Hospital policies decide who can and can’t birth at home and if you don’t meet the strict requirements, you will need to prepare for a birth in the hospital birth centre or birthing suite. Your MGP midwife is generally assigned to you by the hospital, before you meet them. 

Planning to birth at home with a private midwife may give you more flexibility in choosing who you care provider is. They may also have different requirements about when it is best to transfer to hospital, as they are not bound by hospital policies.  There is however a larger cost to hiring a private midwife. 

You will always have have access to medical care if you plan to birth at home. All Midwifery Group Practice and private practice midwives collaborate with obstetricians and other specialists regarding your care, and will refer you at any time (pregnancy or during labour) if it becomes necessary. They are also trained to use medical equipment (which they bring to the home) in case of an unexpected emergency during labour or birth. In most cases (not all) , midwives recognise warning signs and will transfer you to a hospital before an emergency occurs.

For all births planned at home, one registered midwife and one registered care provider trained in neonatal resuscitation (usually another midwife) are required to be present. This means that there is a primary midwife throughout pregnancy and an additional ‘second’ midwife at birth (who is usually first met sometime during pregnancy). This helps provide the best possible care for you and your baby, in case of unexpected complications. 

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